Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Short, Sharp Dose of Reality

Last week I got my first real quarterly royalties cheque. At the princely sum of $84 I think the appropriate comment is “ouch!”

Oh well, we can’t all be Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking.

If I take the perspective of wanting to be a full-time writer, it's fairly terrible. There's no way I'd ever be able to live off that.

Thankfully, I don't have to take to take that perspective. I'm fortunate enough to already have a full-time job, one I enjoy and is relatively well paid. I can take the other perspective. I'm doing something I like (writing stories) and receiving money for it.

$84 is still $84. That's the second half of the kindle I already bought with money from a Literotica contest plus some books to load it up with. It's more than I ever picked up trying to slog through the old fashioned route of submitting to horror/sci fi magazines and certainly $84 more than the manuscript would have got languishing forgotten on a slush pile somewhere.

It's not all. My first book is still out there, still picking up the same trickle of sales. That means in another three months I'm going to get another $84 or so. Actually, there's two months of the second book's sales on top of that, so it's probably going to be more than eighty bucks. And then later in the year I have a third book coming out. It's easy to see how it can start to mount up. I can't live off it, but on top of my regular salary it's a nice extra to put towards a vacation, or a new TV.

One of the points I've seen raised is the current explosion of self publishing and 'race to the bottom' in terms of pricing will kill writing as a viable profession for all but the already wealthy. I don't really see this. A lot of authors had to start off juggling other jobs with their writing until they made enough to leave the day job behind. An advance can help with this sure, but it can backfire horribly if the first book tanks and they aren't picked up for a second. This is even assuming they make it through the gatekeepers. The vast majority don't and won't ever see a single dime for the manuscript they spent a year or two lovingly putting together.

With self publishing a writer can start to see a return as soon as the book is finished and use this to tailor their life accordingly. I go into work every morning and I write on my spare time. I won't need to think about changing this unless my income from book sales starts to outweigh my regular salary, or my spare time suddenly becomes a lot less spare. And of course, even being comparatively unsuccessful in the meantime still generates a bit of extra cash for a few luxuries.

I enjoy writing and it makes me a bit of extra money. Can't really complain about that.

And I even got my post in on the 17th this time.

M.E. Hydra

Sunday, March 13, 2011

#6 Do You Play Well with Others?

Is something you might want to decide when you are self-publishing. I’ve had a few people mention poor sales for anthologies, and I have so say—I don’t see it. The anthologies I’ve put out for December Ink don’t seem to sell any worse (or better for that matter) than anything else. But I digress! The point is, do you want to do an anthology or a “bundle” or a collaboration Do you want to work with other writers? Can you get along?

For the longest time I said no, no, no! I often say no to things that make me nervous. For about two years I said no to writing paranormal, now it is damn near my bread and butter—so go figure. The point is, don’t listen to your fear when it talks. Listen to what you want to try out and be brave enough to do it.

On a whim one day I put out a short call—it started on twitter. What resulted was not one—because I had too many for one—but two short anthologies (Dirtyville: 13 Tales of Small-Town Dirty and Kinkyville: 13 More Tales of Small-Town Dirty). Dirtyville has hung out a great deal on the Kindle Gay/Lesbian Erotica Anthology list. It was just there this week. Almost a year later both are still selling and I still get to pay out writers (though small bits because it’s a 26 way split!). I also still get to see us pop up on random lists here and there. We were even a top seller on All Romance ebooks in the beginning.

Doesn’t that sound exciting?

Now here’s just a few of the things you need to consider when working with others. I learned these along the way and am still putting out fires from time to time.

1. Editor? Yep, that would be you. Unless you go ahead and ‘hire’ someone else. I did the two anthos but once I had done my three million reading run throughs, I sent the pdf’s to the authors and asked them to read their own work. Once in a while you get some really good eagle eyes reading who will send you general errors they spotted in the whole book. And then once you fix all the reported issues—yep, you get to read it again.
2. Paperwork: get their permission in writing to use the author’s work. Even if it is one paragraph that basically says: ______is legally mine to sell, I am the sole author of this work, I agree to let ____________ use it for_____________ amount of time at the pay rate of_________________. And then their signature and date.
3. Pay out with a flat rate out of pocket or pay out a percentage of the work? That is the question. With no one bankrolling you but you, flat rate payouts may be iffy. I go with option number two because it saves me from having to put out money up front and in this instance, I saw the ‘ville books as “our” books. A group effort. So to me, contributors were getting just as much or just as little as me, it seemed only fair.
4. Paperwork is quarterly or however you spell it out in your agreement. I do quarterly because most of the vendors I use (ARe, Smashwords, Bookstrand, 1 Place for Romance…) pay out quarterly. So my antho writers don’t get paid until I do.
5. All the other stuff. Questions, emails, spreadsheets, paypal addresses, juggling. It can be a lot and often I still feel overwhelmed when I sit down to do it. Which is why you see that DI isn’t swimming in multi-author works. However, it is also awesome to share the success of those little books with a group of people and I adore having put something together that included lots of orchestration, time and love.

So what about you? Do you play well with others?

As a final note I’d like to add, take a look at the anthologies in your own possession as models. And follow the direction! Meaning when you put these works up on sites. Smashwords is a prime example of spelling out the copyright page and all that jazz. They put the rules there for a reason, use them. Most of all, have fun!